Watching the watchers

We are all becoming more aware of how much of our personal data, our digital expressions of volition in the big data landscape, is being collected, used and sold. Our movements on the web, our page views, our likes, our social networks are mapped, categorized and transmuted into big dollars for large and often unseen corporations. For instance Twitter made around $70 million dollars in 2013 by selling off the data made by what you like, who you are friends with and what you hashtag.

The first step we must all take to arrest this runaway train of big brother hegemony is to understand just exactly how much of our data is being watched and collected. How many watchers are lurking on each page we visit. How much of our digital volition are they collecting.

To understand more about big data, exhaust data and data barons I suggest you visit here Digital terra forming

But this post is to give you some useful on the ground tools to start to monitor the activities of data collection tools on your computer, your browser and your digital life.

First I recommend you download and install Disconnect.me this is a great little app that can easily show you how many data collectors there are on each page you visit. When you install the app it will show in the top bar of your browser, a little red bubble will show you how many different agencies are collecting your information on that page. You can click on it to get more detailed information about these watchers. There is a short little video here that it explains what it does Disconnect.me video

The app is open source, pay what you want. That means you can download it free or make a donation. 

There are many names for what is going on right now and some people call it the Filter Bubble. A good article about what you can do to pop your filter bubble can be found here 10 things you can do to pop your filter bubble.

One great piece of advice I found on this was about the cookies on your computer. I use Safari on my computer so I found that if I went to Safari/preferences/privacy and clicked on more details I could see what cookies had been installed onto my computer from other people. Some of these cookies are helpful for logging in to frequently used sites but some were from sites that I had only visited once or didn’t even know what they were. By holding down the command button and clicking on all the ones I wanted to remove I felt like I was pulling sucking leeches off my computer.

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Well that’s a good start! 

I am stumbling my way through all of this just the same as many, many people out there. It is long past time that we took control of our digital privacy and start to make these steps. I hope that governments can be convinced and empowered to also protect us but until then we do all need to take responsibility as well.

If you have any suggestions or tips or tricks for protecting your digital privacy please comment on this post!.